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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is mainly about redemption and forgiveness, though path to get there involves lots of violence.
Positive Role Models
No clear role models. Main character begins as a criminal and finds redemption, but his methods are violent, brutal. Other characters need to be rescued or are victims, or are flat-out villains.
Main character and main villain are both White men (a White man rules a Japanese village), while supporting and secondary characters are largely Japanese. Actress who plays Bernice (Sofia Boutella) is from Algeria. But most female characters are portrayed as either submissive (a gaggle of Japanese women "serve" the governor) or waiting to be rescued from the Ghostland. Men drive this movie.
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Violence & Scariness
Guns and shooting, including a Gatling gun. Many characters are shot. Sword fighting with slicing and stabbing. Lots of blood sprays, pools of blood, etc. Martial arts fighting. Children get shot. Women are harassed and briefly threatened in a sexual manner. Woman's head is sliced off (not shown except for blood spatter on ground). Woman threatened with knife. Knife throwing. Main character's suit-bombs go off; he loses a testicle (he then holds up the severed, bloody testicle) and injures his arm (bloody wound). Zombie attack. Huge explosion. Car crash. Spoken story about a nuclear spill and people burned by the poisonous sludge.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Topless woman briefly seen. Erotic poster (with topless woman) briefly shown in background. Man undressed, nothing explicit shown; a woman "checks him out" and comments "I've seen better." Naked mannequin posed provocatively.
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Strong language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "c--ksucker," "bitch," "hell," "balls," "testicle," "badass," "godless sodomites," "dirty slut," "whack job."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villain drinks sake in one scene. Dialogue about "shots of whiskey."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Prisoners of the Ghostland is a post-apocalyptic samurai-Western-action movie starring Nicolas Cage. It borrows heavily from Escape from New York and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but has its own offbeat sensibility. Violence is extremely strong, with guns and shooting (including a Gatling gun); many characters getting shot and/or killed; sword fighting; slicing; stabbing; blood sprays, spurts, and pools; and martial arts fighting. Children are shot and killed, and women are harassed and threatened in violent and/or sexual ways. An explosive severs a man's testicle; the bloody testicle is shown. There are also zombies, explosions, and more. Language is very strong, too, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. There's brief female nudity (bare breasts), and a man undresses -- nothing explicit is shown -- while women comment on his appearance. Brief sake drinking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
While it won't be for everyone, this truly bizarre mashup of Westerns and samurai movies, mixed with other bits and pieces, offers a visionary design as well as a thrillingly unhinged Nicolas Cage. Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono, a cult favorite known for Suicide Club (2001) and the equally odd, amazing Love Exposure (2008), makes his English-language debut here (though some Japanese is also spoken). Prisoners of the Ghostland is largely set in what seems like a post-apocalyptic future, or perhaps some alternate reality, where a White man rules a Japanese village that's peopled by both samurai and cowboys, and in an astonishing, ramshackle town, built with random knickknacks. The set design is colorful, and the costumes are incredible.
Plotwise, Prisoners of the Ghostland shamelessly plucks whole ideas from Escape from New York and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, as well as Ennio Morricone-like music cues, but Sono has enough style of his own that these borrowed items somehow seem to fit. Sono's storytelling likewise takes a pretty straightforward sci-fi/action tale and peppers it with oddities, making it feel like something bracing and even surprising. At the center is Cage (who is unnamed but called "Hero" in the credits), zipped up in his pouchy leather suit with a metal arm brace screwed into place and wearing a broken football helmet. He gives another of the unhinged performances that his fans love; at least this time it goes right along with the rest of the strange fun.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.